Human Rights Watch


Human Rights Watch has offered a critical eye on problematic aspects of anti-trafficking strategies since the onset of the current wave. Below are some published articles and reports.

Swept Away May 2013, Human Rights Watch report- Abuses against Sex Workers in China 
“The imposition of punitive penalties for voluntary, consensual sexual relations amongst adults violates a number of internationally recognized human rights, including the rights to personal autonomy and privacy. Human Rights Watch takes the position that this also holds true with respect to voluntary adult commercial sex work, and that respecting consenting adults’ autonomy to choose to engage in voluntary sex work is consistent with respect for their human rights. Criminalization of sex work also creates barriers for those engaged in sex work to exercise basic rights such as availing themselves of government protection from violence, access to justice for abuses, access to essential health services as an element of the right to health, and other available services. Failure to uphold the rights of the millions of women who voluntarily engage in sex work leaves them subject to discrimination, abuse, exploitation, and undercuts public health.

Human Rights Watch 2014 Report 
“The logic of Toonen and Goodwin* informs two recent foci of Human Rights Watch’s privacy-related work: our call for decriminalizing simple drug use and possession (see the essay The Human Rights Case for Drug Reform in this volume), and our push for decriminalizing voluntary sex work by adults.” *Court case in Australia regarding physical privacy.”
“Both drug use and even voluntary sex work can pose serious risks to health and safety (including heightened risk for HIV/AIDS), but driving participants into the shadows is usually highly counterproductive to efforts to treat, mitigate, or prevent harm. Criminalization in both cases can cause or exacerbate a host of ancillary human rights violations, including exposure to violence from private actors, police abuse, discriminatory law enforcement, and vulnerability to blackmail, control, and abuse by criminals. These severe and common consequences, and the strong personal interest that people have in making decisions about their own bodies, mean it is unreasonable and disproportionate for the state to use criminal punishment to discourage either practice.”


U.S. State Department Trafficking Report a “Mixed Bag” – July 2001
Human Report “glosses over the problems of state complicity and corruption” and “concentrates too much on trafficking for “sexual exploitation,” to the exclusion of trafficking into other forms of forced labor.

U.S. State Department Trafficking Report Undercut by Lack of Analysis- June 2003
For the third consecutive year, the State Department report fails to give hard figures on the number of people being trafficked. The report “fails to weigh and condemn harmful immigration policies…” “lacks specificity… is often vague or cursory …undue credit for minimal effort..ignores government practices, such as summary deportation and incarceration, that effectively punish trafficking victims.